Twenty 80’s Songs that Don’t Get Played Enough Anymore

I’m re-posting this now that I have got around to putting the links in – enjoy if you have not already.

Okay, this is not a definitive list and is in no particular order, but honestly, some of these should be played more – a lot more.

1. Understanding Jane – The Icicle Works: What can I say about the Icicle Works – good melodies, good lyrics, never played on radio, at least not here. This is even a tiny bit grungy before grunge existed…excellent in all respects. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXm12KFuEZM

2. Pink Sunshine – We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It: Fuzzbox, as they were known, were an indie band that went mainstream pop in the late 80s with singles like International Rescue, Self, and this one. Of course the sexy Victoria Perks’ perkiness helped too! This is pure unadulterated pop and it’s great. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_72Y9L7DAk

3. Badges, Posters, Stickers, & T-Shirts – Dire Straits: Something different for MK and his band. This is jazzy. It was the b-side of Private Investigations and is sadly little known and played even less, if at all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28-nADaCGqs

4. Everything Good Is Bad – Westworld: This band had a hit with Sonic Boom Boy, but their cover of this song was their best in my opinion. They ramped up the guitars and let rip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujsh1nmQGuo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QOnP7Ui2Io this is the video but it cuts out – still, I like it

5. Mad World – Tears for Fears: Okay, so this may get played a little, but it was TFFs first single and their best, although Shout came close. It is dark and brilliant and I love it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFsHSHE-iJQ

6. Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade: Lovely song from this Scottish duo. One hit wonders to the best of my knowledge with a distinctly 80’s electronic drum feel and plenty of synthesiser. What ever happened to them? Could easily be included in my Guilty Pleasures top 20 which is still under construction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI3u1lOoH8o

7. Lebanon – Human League: Easily their best song for me. A bit of political commentary and an anti-war message mixed in with a kick-ass bass intro, some great guitar work and the line – ‘and who will have won once the soldiers have gone.’ Who indeed? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEsRYkRpySY

8. Major Tom (Coming Home) – Peter Schilling: A bit of Europop and what a bit it is. This is Peter Schilling’s homage to David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Ashes to Ashes singles. The soaring chorus really makes the song. Apparently the man is still performing around Europe – so good for him! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jt-R5hj_lWM

9. Oblivious – Aztec Camera: This band had a couple of hits, notably Somewhere in my Heart, but this one didn’t make it far in the charts. In my opinion, though, it is their best song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B2Sc2G_5ZA

10. Blind Vision – Blancmange: Blancmange had three hits with Living on the Ceiling and Don’t Tell Me being the best known, but my favourite is this one. They also did a great version of The Day Before You Came originally a song by ABBA fame (they even got Agnetha to appear in their video). Blind Vision is synth pop at its very best. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YAvhMTgE8o

11. Can I Play With Madness – Iron Maiden: The 80s are not complete without Iron Maiden. They hit the big time with Run to the Hills, but this was their first No.1. It is a masterpiece of heavy metal and not a bad video either – if just a little bit corny. But hey – this was the 80s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9TZlh_ucZk

12. Imagination – Belouis Some: Another short-lived pop success who I believe may still be going. He had a hit with Some People (at least in the UK) but Imagination was far superior and has a great bass part in it. One of my favourite 80s songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyamU4m-WxU

13. Today – Talk Talk: Dark and fantastic from the Hollis brothers. They flirted with success and gained a good following, but first burst onto the scene with Talk Talk, Such a Shame, and Today. Their biggest hit was It’s My Life, more recently covered by Gwen Stefani. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ge-IFWGq-6o

14. Animal – Def Leppard: Hair rock. Yeah, there were others, but the boys from Sheffield took over the world with the album Hysteria, which spawned this single. I loved it when I first heard it, and then went off it – but it’s back and should be played more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecFPU–vvf0

15. Mama – Genesis: A very dark song about a prostitute – the first single off Genesis IV and Phil Collins at his vocal best. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ccs2rt0oSzQ

16. Ship Building – Robert Wyatt: This haunting song by Elvis Costello during the Falklands War about the shipyards, building ships, and not coming back from war. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjUkjpJa6bY

17. Here Comes the Summer – The Undertones: Pure joy from these Belfast lads. Only 1:57 in length but full of energy and girls with long legs. One of my favourite – I even prefer it to Teenage Kicks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw_5xS8Uj8A

18. Ace of Spades – Motorhead: Yes – Lemmy’s biggest hit. The man as fired from Hawkwind and can’t sing but who gives a shit? This rocks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iwC2QljLn4

19. A New England – Kirsty MacColl: A Billy Bragg song covered (with an added extra verse) to perfection by Kirsty MacColl. This was her biggest hit and never fails to energise me. Great voice too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4c2kO5ZE38

20. I Can Hear Your Heartbeat – Chris Rea: Chris Rea has a good following and is now very bluesy, but in 1983 he released this pop classic. Do yourself a favour and have a listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhCUCxet2a4

Classic Albums No.5 – A Tonic For the Troops (The Boomtown Rats)

A Tonic For the Troops by the Boomtown Rats is my next classic album. Released in 1978 as the punk era was incorporating itself into the mainstream pop culture. The Boomtown Rats has released their first album the previous year and had some minor success, with great single Looking After No 1, but it was this album that launched them into the big time.  Sometimes maligned as being a sort quasi-punk band, the Rats were nothing like this – they were a pop group who wrote great melodies with intelligent lyrics and used the full range of instruments. They were accomplished  musicians.

The album starts – tick tock tick tock tick tock – with Like Clockwork  with a slightly off-not guitar with some fast drumming before Bob Geldof’s vocals come in. This is an ideal opener because it promises lots to come. What comes next is Blind Date, an energetic song that blends a rolling drumbeat with some Rolling Stone-esqe  guitar riffs. The bass guitar moves the song  along and the use of Harmonica just adds a nice touch.

Next comes one of my favourites – (I Never Loved) Eva Braun a satirical take on Hitler’s mistress. This, in my opinion, is a masterpiece of pop. It’s changes of pace, laid back verses and accelerated chorus with the dependable guitar melody and good use of keyboards (a feature of the Rats), along with whistling (yes whistling) and drums at the end just make this a magnificent song.

Living In an Island shows a touch of reggae influence, while Don’t Believe What You Read has a punk influenced vibe all through it, showing how the Rats incorporated all sorts of styles into their songs.
The first song on side two is She’s So Modern, which reached No 12 in the UK charts. This is a delightfully punk-influenced pop song that must get you up to dance, a cacophony of sound that blends perfectly into something  fabulous.

I thought Me and Howard Hughes was not the strongest song on the album, but as it follows such a strong song as Modern Girl I think I might be being a bit harsh. It has a nice melody and motors along as it describes a recluse. Can’t Stop brings a frenetic pace to the album with Geldof’s near hysterical voice adding to the out-of-control vibe (unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to this one).  A Tonic For the Troops finishes off with (Watch Out For) The Normal People  which is a dig at conformity in the suburbs, but is, for me, is great pop song, and the iconic Rat Trap, the Boomtown Rat’s first No 1.

There’s not much I can say about Rat Trap that hasn’t already been said. It’s a story about a Saturday Night in Dublin. These of keyboards, saxaphone , the slow intro, and the build up to a rip-roaring end. But more than that, this is a story, a comment on boredom in the city, a lack of hope, generational chains keeping people down. This is what a pop song should be.

Anyhow, I couldn’t find a link to a full album on youtube, so I have included links to the as many songs as I could below. So long for now.

George

Like Clockwork – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtDhMScCkcQ

Blind Date – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7pblzUnr6E

(I Never Loved ) Eva Braun – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQUu1HTRPYA

Living In An Island – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7twG_BXZn0w&list=PLA67E032B0269F2A3

Don’t Believe What You Read – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfREM2iVfug

She’s So Modern – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZH2fknRMLE

Me and Howard Hughes – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TdPRjcG8As

Can’t Stop  – no link that I could find

(Watch Out For) The Normal People –  as 11:23 on this one of the Peel Sessions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVQpxcQbD8E

Rat Trap – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ02zCMoxCo

Philosophical musing

I sometimes wonder about nothing,
where it comes from,
what it is?

I am mainly nothing, so they say
just charged particles
screaming around nucleii

They tell me that nothing is everything,
hard as granite,
soft as silk.

Our galaxy is nothing, they say
just stars and planets – dust,
but mainly vacant.

So what is nothing, that vacuum
of such weightlessness,
that blank space,
that nothing.

Jargon…it sucks

Trying to get ahead but finding yourself time-poor? Then perhaps you are spending too much time with modern jargon!

Every new generation of kids and teenagers comes up with words and phrases that are new and confuse older generations, however it is now the adults that are coming up with new stuff. The trouble is that this new jargon often doesn’t make sense, even though it infiltrates modern language. I have two examples that I want to rant about, because they are really nothing more than excuses for begin miserable and trying to paint oneself as a martyr.

Time-Poor

What does time-poor mean? Has there ever been a more annoying phrase? How has anybody got any less time in the day than anyone else? Don’t we all have the same number of minutes and hours in each day?

Yes, as you may have gathered, this is a phrase that really strikes me as inane. If there is not enough time in the day it probably means that you are trying to do too much. Most of us have a lot of choice about how much we try to fit in. So, if you are finding that there are not enough hours in the day, perhaps you need to slow down a little bit and take some time to smell the roses.

At the end of the day it’s your choice how much you take on, irrespective of whether you feel you have to or not. Learn to say no, or at least put aside time for yourself (and don’t compromise on this one!). There will always be jobs that appear to be, or at least we perceive to be, urgent and it is so easy to get caught up in the rush to achieve for achievements sake rather than for any worthwhile outcome.

Perhaps we need to slow down and accept that there are things we have to let go of. Everything is not urgent, no matter what we may think. Opportunities come and go, but the chances are that more opportunities will come along. We don’t have to fight every battle that comes our way either, the confidence to let an issue go frees up time we can use for our own enjoyment. We can be selective. Put simply, if you find you are struggling to fit everything into your day, don’t try to do so much!

And above all, don’t use the phrase time-poor, it sounds like the workaholics justification for not allowing time for themselves to enjoy life.

Getting Ahead

Getting ahead of what? Exactly how will anyone know when they are ‘ahead’? Who will they be ahead of, and how? I hear this phrase so often and I still wonder what, or who, the users of this phrase are competing with.

The question arises – if you are ahead of someone, on your self-generated scale, surely there are probably people you are ‘behind’. And if you are ‘behind’ people, can you possibly say that you are ‘ahead’? It makes my head hurt.

By all means set goals which you want to achieve, but to use the term getting ahead is tantamount to saying that you are somehow not up to scratch and struggling to keep up. It is a way of reinforcing that you are somehow inferior to others and cannot be good for self-esteem. Is that any sort of way to live a life? I expect a lot people trying to get ahead also use the term time-poor.

Negative Growth

Sorry, this is just drivel. What is negative growth? Growth is an expansion of a substance of a network or some other ‘thing’. It cannot be negative. The phrase is contradictory. What people who use this word mean to say is something like, shrinkage, or contraction, and they usually mean this in relation to a business or the economy.

So when treasury or a business executive say this annoying phrase, they are doing everything they can not to mention other words, but this is pointless. Everyone knows what they mean if they utter this phrase – we’re going backwards.

This is symptomatic of our fear of a bad result, our fear of failure, of admitting that we might not have succeeded. It’s pathetic really. And it’s also very bad English, irritatingly bad English. So economists, executives and bureaucrats, please stop using this phrase.

So, my advice?

Chill out, relax, enjoy your life, and most of all, and avoid meaningless jargon!

Classic Albums 4 – Rick’s Road (Texas)

So, we’re onto Classic Album No. 4 – Ricks Road by Texas. This didn’t seem to get the same traction as some of their later albums but, in my view, it is jam-packed full of quality. There is a bluesy vibe that gives this album a soulful feel. This, combined with the great pop overtones, makes for an evolution from the previous album, Mother’s Heaven. Sharleen Spiteri’s voice is as smooth as honey and blends with Ally McErlaine’s guitar and Johnny McElhone’s bass to perfect harmony.

The album begins with So Called Friend, an upbeat pop number that gets the listener into the mood and then comes Fade Away, which has a hard-edged guitar riff and a thumping rhythm. This is where I think I can hear that blues influence, with a great heavy bass part from McElhone to drive the song along. Listen To Me is one of the highlights for me – a melodic, soulful song that shows Spiteri’s voice off at its best.  Next comes You Owe It All To Me –  the intro is a classic with great keyboards and the kicking first lines ‘I never thought they’d be a time, when all you’d wanna do is fight’. There is angst in Spiteri’s voice and the use of flat notes / minor chords and heavy echoing keyboards just adds to the mood.

Beautiful Angel carries on with the mood, albeit with a bit more of an upbeat feel only to be slowed down by So In Love With You – another angsty song that has soaring vocals and a chorus that makes great use of subtle guitar chords.  From the opening notes of You Got To Take A Little Time you know it’s going to be an uplifting song, the harmonica gives it a hint of the deep south. It’s a foot-tapping ride that makes me smile. Then they hit you with the sultry I Wanna Go To Heaven – a reversal in the vibe, a guitar-based blues track that takes you back to the general blues vibe of the album. I love the use of keyboards on this track – not used hugely, but really effectively.

As the  album gets towards the last third, Hear Me Now raises the tempo again. This is a pop song with another guitar solo (there a few on this album!). The end of this song suddenly slows down, which is a great bit of work for the sequencing of this album, because the following songs are back to the slower tempo.  Fearing These Days and I’ve Been Missing You. The second of these is one of my favourite tracks on Rick’s Road with its hypnotic, steady rhythm (almost like a horse trotting along), great guitar and keyboard work, and wonderful singing. Finally there is Winter’s End – a perfect way to finish off. The gentle sadness in this song winds the listener down – Sharleen Spiteri sings “It’ll never be the same again” – and for me it wasn’t. This is far and away my favourite Texas album. The blues feel, the quality of musicianship, the attention to the melody, and a voice that is to die for, make Ricks Road just awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t include Sharleen Spiteri in my series of Classic singers, but she’ll definitely been in the next round.

That’s all for now. The link to Rick’s Road is below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5x2gh8PqRY

The Night Sky – another one of the simple pleasures in life

When the night draws back the curtains to reveal the universe within which we live, I find myself gazing upwards in wonder. Light is reaching us over unimaginable distances, distances that would blow your mind. And that light has taken thousands of years to get here. What we actually see is what once was, not what now is. We are looking directly into the past. Wow! A colleague of mine once told me that Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years – well he said absolutely everybody would come to see it. And I think he’s right.

Those distant twinkling points of light, the blues, reds, whites, greens and oranges (if you ever get a chance to see The Jewel Box formation, you’ll see all of these colours – it’s magnificent) might even harbour life. How amazing is that? Are there planets circling those far off stars? If you can escape the city lights you’ll see the Milky Way, our home galaxy, stretching across above you – vast gas clouds obscuring some of the stars, the centre a dense, if distant, white mist of light full of countless stars, and perhaps even a large black hole.

 And if you look hard enough, or are fortunate enough to have a telescope, you might even see distant galaxies, collections of billions of stars slowly spinning tens of thousands of light years away, maybe even further. We are in a big, big universe and every night we get to see it, to gaze up and see our home. It’s awesome.

To cap it off you may be lucky enough to see a shooting star tear across the sky, a brilliant ephemeral streak of light that sparkles into obscurity. Once or twice I fancy I heard them – a faint ripping sound. When I worked in the Kimberly I made a rule that I would see five before I went to sleep each night, and I was rarely disappointed. I was looking for diamonds, but the only ones I saw were in the sky – but they outshone everything else.

The dregs of history – General Diligence Dumphuk (1769 – 1809)

Diligence Dumphuk was a born follower who was thrust into a leadership role because of his aristocratic breeding. He came from a long line of Dumphuks who had, for centuries, provided fodder for cannons, arrows, spears and swords. His father, Admiral Sir Teddington Dumphuk, died during the American War of Independence when Diligence was only six years old.

The family legend is that Sir Teddington died heroically when fighting an action in Chesapeake Bay, when he was struck down by enemy grapeshot. Other sources, particularly his fellow admirals, suggest that he forced his crew on a joyride one night in an unsurveyed part of the bay and ran his ship, HMS Doubtful, onto rocks. The next day his crew could not find him and assumed he had fallen overboard. The fact that there were bloodstains on his cabin wall and his hat was found (with a bullet hole through it) some days later on a nearby beach, was not considered significant by the Admirals. They promoted second-in-command, First Lieutenant Horatio Hopkins, to Captain and he took control of the boat once it was repaired.

After attempting to keep Diligence out of harm’s way, the British High Command found themselves unable to prevent his promotion to a General once the aristocracy insisted that it was his right by birth. In 1809 he was posted to Asia Minor to fight the Ottoman Empire and found himself leading a rapidly diminishing number of soldiers.

His contribution to the literary world was, perhaps, the least motivational speech in history prior to what he thought would be his most glorious action. It turned out that he had already fought his last action. After some robust discussion with his senior officers group, all of whom suggested that there were some significant holes in his battle plans, he found that there were significant holes in himself. He then relinquished his grip on command and also his grip on life. His regiment retreated to safety.

Resolute Dumphuk, Diligence’s son, upon hearing about his father’s demise and then reading about his long line of ancestors who had suffered similar fates, changed his name by deed pole to Ronald Smith, sold the family estate for a fortune and emigrated to Australia. He was never heard from again.

Below is a reproduction of General Diligence Dumphuk’s final speech. In brackets are the muffled comments from Captain John Jones, his second in command at the time.

The Speech
Tomorrow we go into battle once more; our task is to take Slaughter Hill. It is defended by two hundred canons, elite cavalry units and two thousand infantry. We will attack from the front, directly uphill. It won’t be easy, but I know you won’t let me down. (It’s suicide you idiot).This is our last chance to regain some regimental pride. A chance to honour your fallen comrades from yesterday’s attack, all five thousand of them. Some may say that retreat would be wise, but I say onwards to glory! (Who the hell made you a general?)

It’s time to show valour and courage in the face of difficult odds. My family has never been found wanting in such circumstances. There has always been a Dumphuk ready to lead the charge into battle. So I will lead you with fearless resolve, from the front. (You’re mad. Did your mother ever drop you on your head?).

Onwards towards glory! Onwards towards immortality! (Does anybody else believe this drivel?)

Onwards towards grapeshot, red-hot cannonballs and razor sharp bayonets! Let them cower and run from the feel of our cold steel! (You’ll feel my cold steel if you’re not careful) Get some sleep. I’ll see you at dawn tomorrow. (No, you won’t).

 

Ths is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History is available here

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